Body Wisdom

Lately, it seems the universe is trying to tell me something.

Ok. I don’t know if it’s the universe or what, but I seem to be getting the same message over and over again from completely separate sources.

At my meeting with my counselor last week, we kind of came to a head. Twenty minutes into the session she said that it seemed like I felt doomed. I did. I really really did. You see, my personality type tends towards the anxious side. I am known as the loyalist, but also as the loyal skeptic, the doubter. I am always questioning things. Always digging. Always figuring out how something is going to turn wrong in the end. These aren’t my only qualities, but they are the powerful ones.

You can see where in some situations this can be helpful. If your company is high risk, they want people to dig and find the weak spots.

But I’m sure you can see where, personally, this can be very harmful.

It takes a lot for me to trust people. Once I trust you, it’ll take more than one incident to lose that trust. But once it’s lost, it’ll be even harder to regain.

To put it lightly, I felt screwed. I was at a low point and I felt like I would never be able to truly trust anyone or anything ever again. It was melodramatic to say the least, but unfortunately at the time that knowledge didn’t make the feelings any less real or less painful.

So then we changed gears.

We talked about anxiety. We talked about fear. And about F.E.A.R. And about negative subjectivity, both useful and not. And finally about positive subjectivity. And what it all came down to was this:

As an anxious person when I analyze a situation I tend to think about all the things that can go wrong and I get scared. Unlike fear, this is F.E.A.R (false evidence appearing real). This tendency is a futile negative subjectivity. It’s something that scares me but that fear/sadness/negative response doesn’t actually protect me from anything or teach me something I need to know (that would be useful negative subjectivity, like feeling pain when I touch something hot or running when a bear decides to chase me). Some people that struggle with really bad anxiety can actually get to a point where they can’t do anything. It can get paralyzing.

So she urged me to instead focus on positive subjectivity. Instead of NOT doing things out of F.E.A.R. or doing the least F.E.A.R.ful things, I needed to start making decisions on what gave me a positive response. And that positive response will more likely than not be a completely inexplicable gut feeling. I have to learn to bypass my anxious brain and trust my gut again.

As she said this I kind of laughed to myself.

This was not the first in recent months that I was told to bypass my brain. And I guess it took this third time to really make things click.

The first time, of course, came with my end to dieting. One of the tenets of intuitive eating, health at every size, body positivity, anti-diet movement that I follow is that the body knows what it needs better than the brain. What diets do is they take the responsibility for nourishment away from the body and to the brain. But animals (including humans) have been feeding themselves for eons with no issue. Without calculating calories and macros and activity levels. The problem with some for some dieters is that the more they rely on their brain to tell them what to eat, the less they trust cues from their bodies. Bodies that have been successfully feeding themselves for as long as organisms have had to survive, much longer than our analytical brain came into existence.

The second time was in the drawing class I took this summer. The teacher, this awesome kind of frazzled older guy with wire-rimmed glasses and hair that sticks up just so, was very adamant about bypassing the brain. He said artists usually let their brain get in their own way. Their brain thinks things (features, eyes, noses, elbows, shoulders, trees, animals) should look a certain way. But if you draw what you see instead of what you think something looks like you’ll go further.

His argument is that the eye has had much more time to refine. It has been part of evolution for a while. Whereas the analytic part of the brain, the part that we often say is unique to humans, is young. The eye knows what it sees. And the hand can draw those shapes. It is the brain that gets frustrated by the process and tells you to draw a circle for an eye and ignore all the beautiful complexity.

And finally, here I was, in a room across from a woman with a Masters degree in psychology whom I hired to help me figure out where I want to go in my career. And she was telling me to bypass my anxious brain and trust my gut feelings.

I’m sorry if this sounds a little woo woo. I wish I could explain it to you, outside world, as clearly as it’s been done in my brain. But what it really comes down to is this: our brains are young and they are pretty malleable – they are easily swayed by all sorts of media sometimes knowingly (like reading a study on something) and sometimes not so knowingly (like watching a commercial for something). And yet, a lot of us have been taught that our brains are our greatest (if not only) tools.

All I’m saying, all I’ve heard at least three times over the last few months, is that maybe we should consider that our bodies are another vast source of wisdom.

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